“To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty but also of compassion sacrifice, courage, kindness. What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we only see the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. IF we remember those times and places—and there are so many—where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction.” –Howard Zinn, “The Optimism of Uncertainty”
On the first anniversary of the attack on our nation’s Capitol, I’m reminded of how powerless I felt watching it all unfold online. Did you feel the same?
Our media have made us observers who watch things occur on screens or read or hear about them online, radio, TV. Our “normal” posture toward the 24-hour news cycle is to watch and react.
Yet, as people of faith, a central affirmation of Jesus is AGENCY.
You may hear me use this word a lot, because discovering my own agency—my capacity to respond and make change happen when I combine my agency with that of others—has been a revelation to me in the last several years.
Somehow, much of our religion in the modern era became a spectator activity, as we watched what happened up at the front of the church, done mostly by religious professionals.
Jesus saw the same thing happening in the Judaism of his day, and that’s what he came to change by reactivating ordinary people, especially those who had been pushed out of their synagogues and separated from their communities because they were deemed “unclean” or were part of an outcast group.
Whatever the many causes of the Capitol Insurrection last Jan. 6—misinformation, anger, conspiracy theories, lies—at least part of what motivated many who were there that day was the feeling of powerlessness. Isn’t it interesting that people on both “sides” of the political spectrum, both then and at this moment, feel powerless?
But we’re NOT powerless. And we don’t only have power by using violence. We can build the power for change and put The People back at the center of the political process by caucusing ourselves and organizing friends and family to caucus on Feb. 1. We can get very clear about what OUR personal stake is in political decisions and candidates coming up in the midterms this November. We can volunteer with organizations to advocate for legislation that helps all Minnesotans to thrive.
We can show up at the Capitol in St. Paul tonight at 6 for the rally on this first anniversary of an event I hope never occurs again. Because as people of faith, you and I have a part to play in our democracy, and an obligation to play it.